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Saskatoon Quilt Guild
community, woman artist, photographer, farming, land as source,family,women's lives and culture, group portraiture, recreation, fun, rural, well-being,societal attitudes, invisibility, every-day life, service to community, portraits of women and their lives, rapport, sensitivity, honesty, quilt, narrative, identity, interaction, women's work, feminism, female craft,documentary photography, place, biographies, women's role, black and white photo collage

Community was important to Frances as she grew up on the farm that her grandfather homesteaded in Loon Lake, Saskatchewan. When they moved to the farm, her father was unable to work as a teacher so money was often scarce. They learned to live off the land. Her family and community pulled together and offered each other assistance whenever necessary. The concepts of family and the importance of community are evident in her work.

start quoteEspecially after my mother died, I really missed that feminine presence in my life and I kind of sought it out in other places. When I was in Chicago, I started photographing groups of older women and what they did together like a women's friendship group that would get together.end quote-- Frances Robson (ARTSask 2008)

Robson’s mother died when she was relatively young and she felt a lack of a female presence in her life. She sought interaction with women in her community. The women of her community were a support and an inspiration to her and Frances decided to focus on women’s lives and culture in this photography series. She sensitively presents a diversity of interests and activities which women pursue for recreation, friendship, fun and as a means of feeling good about themselves. Many of the women in her photographs are elderly. With these images, she implies the resilience of women, but also questions the societal attitudes toward this group and examines issues of invisibility. She explores ideas of women’s roles and how individual women interrelate within a group. As seen in this photograph, she celebrates everyday women -- women who live their lives with no special notoriety, but who are caring and perform valuable services for their communities. She presents not only portraits of the women, but portraits of their lives and times. She has an obvious rapport with her subjects and honestly marks a special occasion or time in their lives.

additional resources How She Became Interested in Photography- Taking Photos of Groups of People
Duration: 1:59 min
Size: 8816kb
Juxtaposing Women's Groups
Duration: 1:18 min
Size: 5527kb
Saskatoon Quilt Guild- Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1987
Duration: 2:24 min
Size: 10603kb
Searching for Identity
Duration: 1:25 min
Size: 6525kb
Why She Started Photographing Groups of Women
Duration: 2:14 min
Size: 9840kb
Things to Think About
  • By gathering as a community group, these women in Saskatoon Quilt Guild, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan are able to socialize and share new ideas while learning skills. Find out more about guilds and their value to the development of artists and craftspeople.


  • Research photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Eugene Smith to learn more about photography. Sandra Semchuck was a great influence on Frances Robson. Find examples of her work in the ARTSask Theme Body in Crisis. How would you compare the two artists’ works?
Studio Activity References

Author unknown.  ‘Frances Robson.’  From the Exhibition  catalogueA list which is an inventory of works in a gallery, museum, or other collection. It describes the works, and may contain articles discussing their history, and classifying them in other ways. It may be in the form of a file of cards (or an electronic equivalent), one card for each object, or in the form of a publication (usually a pamphlet or book), whether for a special exhibition or for all or part of a permanent collection.  (  for Saskatchewan Portraits.  Saskatchewan Arts Board.  Available online at:

Author unknown.  Frances Robson.  Exhibition catalogue, Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1991.

Harvey-Rioux, Linda.  ‘Photographs focus on the natural warmth of women.’  Regina Leader-Post, March 5, 1987.

Robson, Frances.  Making Spaces.  Exhibition catalogue.  Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1988.

Robertson, Sheila.  ‘Refreshing encounter with large, lush images.’  Saskatoon Star Phoenix, September 23, 1995.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning